23RD DECEMBER 2022
Dear Friend of Darwin,
My partner, Jen, and I recently visited Cambridge on a wonderful Darwin pilgrimage. We got to see many of Darwin’s original papers, specimens collected during the Beagle Voyage, and I even had my photo taken with the man himself (I’m the unconventionally handsome one on the right).
The visit was prompted by an exhibition to mark the official completion of the stupendous Darwin Correspondence Project, which had been running for almost 50 years. While we in town, I managed to meet a couple of the current project team, and took the opportunity to thank them for their tremendous work compiling and meticulously researching 30 volumes of Darwin’s correspondence. The final volume will be published early in the new year, filling the last remaining slot on my study shelves. Days after my visit, the project team announced the entire correspondence is now available online. Magnificent stuff! But also kind of sad: the end of an era.
Some Darwin-related stuff I thought you might like:
- Charles Darwin’s note-making system
A post I wrote exploring how Darwin kept track of his assorted notes, helping him to produce such a huge body of work.
- Charles Darwin as a writer (video)
Darwin scholar and biographer Dr Janet Browne recently gave an hour-long online lecture on Darwin’s literary techniques.
- Our Earth, shaped by life
A nice piece about the two ‘bookends’ of Darwin’s scientific publishing career: his works on coral reefs and earthworms, and what they had in common.
- ‘Spontaneous revolutions’: Darwin’s diagrams of plant movement
After weeks watching young tendrils slowly corkscrew their way toward the sun, Charles Darwin set about inventing a system for making botanic motion visible to the naked eye.
- Species and varieties
At what point do different varieties of a species become sufficiently different to be considered different species? This new Darwin Correspondence Project essay explores Darwin’s views on ‘trying to define the undefinable’.
- Darwin’s barometer (video)
An unboxing video of the wonderful mountain barometer used by Darwin during the Beagle voyage.
- Lois Darling’s Beagle
A Linnean Society post about twentieth-century American yachtswoman, author and illustrator Lois Darling’s detailed research into the evolving design of HMS Beagle.
- Charles Darwin: autographed defence document fetches record price
A signed piece of paper on which Darwin defended his theory of evolution has been sold for $882,000 (£719,000). Unfortunately, it was somewhat beyond my budget. (Image and transcript at Darwin Online.)
- ’Emma’ audio play
On something of a role, the Darwin Correspondence Project yesterday published a delightful half-hour audio-play set at Down House on the day of Darwin’s funeral.
Plus… a few bonus links 🔗
Some book recommendations:
Journal of Researches
Due to my visit to Cambridge and various end-of-year-related activities, work on my Darwin book has entered a brief hiatus. I plan to resume work early in the new year, once the hangovers have subsided. Meanwhile, I’ve been making a number of small but important changes to the Friends of Charles Darwin website as part of a long-desired plan to start publishing more stuff on the site and in this newsletter, and less on social media. If everything goes to plan, I’m hoping this newsletter will go out a bit more regularly next year, rather than taking occasional four-month breaks (sorry about that).
…Oh, yes, and I‘ve joined Mastodon.
Expression of Emotions
Thanks for taking time to read this newsletter. Please feel free to forward it to any friends (or, indeed, enemies) you think might like to subscribe. And, as always, your feedback is welcome.
Have a fab one, and see you next year!
Richard Carter, FCD